For at least a few years, this was a window display at The Strong Place Baptist Church on Court Street. Although I’ve walked past it hundreds if not thousands of time, I know only that its congregation appears to practice in Spanish and that it seems connected to an era when the neighborhoods in this part of Brooklyn1 were perhaps less delineated by wealth. That is, until the last 10–15 years or so, there was less distinction between the working class Latino population living mostly east of Smith Street and the working class Italian population living mostly west of Smith Street. Vestiges of this earlier overlapping period include this church, the only remaining Latino presence on the border of Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill as far as I can tell; and Paisano’s butcher shop on Smith Street, an Italian outlier in an otherwise Latino, or more recently, gentrified area.
🎵 Listening to Melodic Art-Tet
Driving east on the 29 Palms Highway from Desert Christ Park 1 to the northwest entrance to Joshua Tree National Forest,2 I passed two roadside installations, what I thought were shrines, that I turned around for.
The first was quite elaborate and dedicated, as far as I could tell, simply to Christ and children. There were no names or images, no additional icons. It was quite striking, isolated, well-maintained, unattended. Definitely a shrine.
The second was less explicit in its religiosity. There was a smallish cross wrapped in satin ribbon tacked onto a wreath of undetermined material, but that was the only adornment to be found on this structure. It was, a far as I could tell, not a shrine, but rather a small shelter, about 4 feet high and 8 feet across. No more than 3 feet deep, it could easily have sat two adults, or laid one out for rest, protected from direct rain or wind or sun.
These photographs were taken on a two-day road trip almost exactly four years ago. These photos stand in for memories I can’t otherwise conjure and have, in effect, become what I describe above, a shrine and a shelter. But who knows what their function was? I live in Brooklyn, New York City, where almost nothing like either of these micro-environments is to be seen at all. I wonder now, too, if they’re still there, or how, exactly, given that I didn’t really know where I was, but only where I had just been and where I was going, I could find them again for a second look?
Which question, of course, can’t be answered with certainty. But the photos do their work, and offer some sense of what I saw, what was where I’ve been.